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Gadgets for Glucose Testing

In this time and age, more and more people are becoming aware and dependent on the latest technology or gadgets. They look forward to the latest when it comes to entertainment and communication needs. Nowadays, a fast growing number of people are becoming more interested in the latest technology that is related to their medical needs. An example is the glucometer. It is one gadget that has truly evolved in function and sophistication.

GLUCOMETER: It is a glucose meter (home blood sugar monitoring device), which is programmed to determine the approximate blood glucose level. A drop of blood obtained by pricking the skin with a lancet is placed on a disposable test strip, which provides you with an instant feedback of what your blood sugar is. This valuable information tells you whether your blood sugar is too low, too high or within acceptable range. Keeping a documentation of your results gives your doctor a precise picture of how your treatment is working. The glucometer is small and portable—that’s why you can test your blood sugar virtually anywhere and anytime.

Why Check Blood Sugars?
I always tell my diabetic patients that to conquer diabetes, one has to be well-informed and be familiar with the disease. Therefore, I encourage my patients to monitor their blood sugars at home so that they will know their blood sugars in real-time. I have listed four good reasons why you must supply yourself with a home blood sugar monitoring device.

1) PREVENTS EMERGENCIES:
Testing your blood sugar informs you whether your sugar levels are too low or too high. You will be able to immediately react to the results and prevent catastrophic events. For example, symptoms of hypoglycemia (low sugar) can easily be double checked by getting the blood sugar level with a glucometer. If the reading shows < 70 mg/dL this can easily be resolved by taking in sugar in the form of juice or sugar tablets. Recheck again the blood sugar levels every 30 to 60 mins until it reaches the safe level (>80 mg/dL). However, if the blood sugar reveals a reading that is dangerously low or high then it is important to go to the ER or to your doctor immediately.

2) BALANCE: The holistic approach in the treatment of diabetes includes interplay of different factors such as exercise, the amount and kind of food taken, and the types of medications used. Accurate blood sugar monitoring informs you how each of them affects your blood sugar. It can inform you what type of exercise and how long the regimen should safely be executed without going to hypoglycemia. It tells you whether you have overeaten or have starved yourself. Therefore, by monitoring your sugar level, you will be able to balance these three important factors.

3) CONFIDENCE: To me, the most important reason why you need to monitor your blood sugar level is to give you control of the disease. Everyday you are aware of your medical status. It gives you reassurance that you are in a good (sugar level) condition as you go through your daily activities. You become proactive and master of the disease instead of being a passive patient.

4) ASSESS EFFECTIVENESS:
Recording your blood sugar levels informs you and your doctor how effective your medications are in controlling your diabetes. It will also give your doctor a summary of the daily blood sugar fluctuations you might be encountering. As a result, your doctor will be able to tailor the treatment regimen to bring down the HbA1c levels to 6.5 percent. In effect, this will prevent you from having the dreaded complications of diabetes such as blindness, kidney problems or amputation. In summary, tight control of blood glucose levels using frequent blood sugar monitoring will prevent, delay or lessen the risk of diabetes-related complications.

Devices For Checking Blood Sugar Levels
a) Traditional Glucometer. The traditional method of testing your blood glucose involves pricking your finger with a lancet and putting a drop of blood on a test strip. The test strip is usually attached to the glucometer and it displays the glucose level after a few seconds. There are a few glucometers that can be connected to a computer, which retrieves all the blood sugar readings and displays them in a graph. The important features of a glucometer is its portability, availability and reliability. Different models of glucometers are now available in the market. Different companies have offered lifetime warranties and promotional discounts.

Choosing the right glucometer for you will depend on the following factors:
1) Size: Most meters are as big as your palm, however some are smaller or bigger.
2) Volume of blood sample: The amount of blood (usually 0.3 to 10µl) required will differ from model to model.
3) Speed: Some meters display glucose readings within 10 to 60 seconds after dropping blood on the strip.
4) Glucose strip or test: These are the consumable parts of the equipment. Some models have strips, which are individually wrapped to prevent environmental exposure to the unused strips. The cost of these strips and availability are important factors in choosing a glucometer.
5) Display: Glucose values are reported in mg/dL or mmol/L. The preferred measurement unit in the USA and in the Philippines is: mg/dL. To convert mmol/L to mg/dL of glucose, simply multiply by 18.
6) Additional Features: Some glucometers have added features such as a clock display and data transfer to a computer.

B) Meters That Test Alternative Sites. The latest glucometers allow you to test sites other than your fingertip. The other testing sites which are less painful include the upper arm, forearm, base of the thumb and thigh. Blood
drawn from alternative sites may give you results that are slightly different from the blood glucose levels obtained from the fingertip. However, if you are experiencing hypoglycemia, it is advisable to do the fingertip method rather than testing from alternative sites.

C.) Continuous Glucose Monitoring System. This equipment involves a small plastic tube inserted just under the skin (abdomen) and measures blood sugar at regular intervals. It collects small amounts of fluid even while you are sleeping which gives the doctor a good idea of what is happening to your blood sugar throughout the day for three days. This is now available in the local market at a cost of P220,000 or you can rent it for three days for a fraction of the cost.

D) GlucoWatch. It is an innovation in glucose testing. The main highlight is that it is a non¬invasive continuous glucose monitoring device. It draws small amounts of fluid from the skin using a low electric current and measures blood glucose levels three times per hour for 12 hours. Another important feature is that it is small enough to be worn like a wristwatch. It has a built-in alarm to alert you when your glucose level is dangerously low or high. It is available in the USA for $5,753.

E) Latest Research: New concepts/ gadgets are now being developed that are non-invasive and less painful when determining your blood sugar.
i. Laser
ii. Infrared radiation
iii. Ultrasound
iv. Radio waves

Whatever method you are using, testing your blood sugar regularly is recommended practice to optimize control of your blood sugar. New gadgets are in the horizon that are less painful and may make glucose testing more enjoyable.

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